Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, April 3, 2016
I Am the Living One - April 3, 2016 - Second Sunday of Easter - Text: Revelation 1:4-18
Jesus is risen from the dead. He is alive. We worship a living God. This morning we continue in the afterglow of our Easter celebration, and really, as Christians we are reminded that each and every Sunday is an Easter celebration. This morning we continue with using the Epistle lesson as our text and although you might not think it, Revelation is a fitting after Easter text. Let me put it this way. Maybe you remember that Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the follow up book of Acts. In much the same way, John wrote the Gospel of John and the follow up book of Revelation. As we get to our text we will see that Revelation is indeed “A Distant Triumph Song,” as one of my commentaries calls it. I might also begin by saying that John’s revelation is appropriate because what John is seeing is the resurrected Jesus, who is seated at the right hand of the Father, who is in all His glory, which He had given up to be born as one of us.
Our text begins right at the beginning of the book. Immediately after introducing this writing as a revelation from God in the first three verses, John continues with words of doxology and greeting in the next four verses. John writes “to the seven churches in the province of Asia.” Many times in the Bible numbers have special meaning. Yet, we need to be careful, because not every number has special meaning. Here in the book of Revelation, which is a vision, many of the numbers do have special meaning. Here John uses the number seven, “the seven churches” to mean the number of completion. In other words, John is seeing this vision which is for the complete number of churches, the whole church of God, all believers in Jesus.
John begins with doxology. He begins with trinity. He begins with “grace and peace” “from him who is, and who was, and who is to come,” in other words, he begins with God the Father. God is eternal. He always was, always is and always will be. He is forever.
John then speaks of God the Holy Spirit, or as he calls him, “from the seven spirits.” It is possible that John uses the term “seven spirits” to bring to mind “the seven-fold description of the Holy Spirit found in the Old Testament book of Isaiah (11:2).”
And John speaks of God the Son. John describes Jesus in His role as the faithful witness, which is the role of the prophet; the firstborn from the dead, and here I would make an aside to remind you that He is the firstborn from the dead after having made Himself the sacrifice for our sins, which we are reminded that the role of the priest was to make sacrifices; and He is the ruler of the kings of the earth (v.5), meaning that Jesus is our King, even the King of kings. So, we see Jesus as prophet, priest and king. And we see that John begins with the trinity, Father, Holy Spirit and Son. And he begins with Jesus threefold office of prophet, priest and king.
John reminds us that Jesus is the one who has freed us from our sins. He did this by the shedding of His blood on the cross for us. He did this by His death and resurrection (v.6) for us, in our place. And John reminds us as Paul does in many of his letters, that we are redeemed, not for nothing, but so that we might serve Him in His kingdom, so that we might do the good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do.
John reminds us of the coming day of Judgement. He reminds us that Jesus is the one who is coming to judge the world. In His coming to judge the world, the unbeliever will mourn because of Him (v. 7), because he will know that means his eternal destruction.
John goes on to share Jesus’ words of greeting and his description of what he saw (v. 8-18). John tells us that Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, that is, He describes Himself as the beginning and the end (v. 8). Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last. It would be like saying in English that He is from A to Z. Notice also that Jesus’ words remind us that He is one with the Father and the Spirit and that He was with the Father and the Spirit even from the beginning, even at the creation of the world.
John writes that he is suffering as Jesus said he would (cf. John 16:33). Interestingly enough, the word that John uses for suffering is the same word that Jesus used for trouble in the Gospel of John when He reminded us that we would have trouble in this world, but we are to take heart, because Jesus has overcome the world. In other words, Christ has overcome the suffering and troubles of this world.
John says he saw the seven golden lampstands. These lampstands are symbols of the seven churches. As we said earlier, John is speaking to the whole Christian church.
John goes on to describe God (v.13-16). His head and hair were white like wool, not because of His old age, even though I would wonder if it could not be from the trouble we have been, but His hair is white to show His wisdom and dignity. His whiteness shows His purity, holiness, and righteousness. His eyes of blazing fire show with what purifying fire He will judge, as He sees absolute truth from a lie (v.14). His feet were bronze “showing his authority and the exercise of His power over His enemies, who must serve as His footstool,” and His voice was the sound of rushing water, both frightening for sinners and calming for believers (v.15).
John describes what came out of His mouth as being like a “sharp double-edged sword.” And what comes out of Jesus’ mouth is nothing but His Word. Paul reminds us that as Christians the only offensive weapon we carry into battle against the devil is the sword of the Word of God.
John, quoting Jesus, again, says that He describes Himself as the “living one.” That brings us back to the understanding that we worship a living God. And we worship a God who holds the keys to heaven. Faith in Jesus is the key. Faith saves, unbelief condemns.
So, why am I excited about having the book of Revelation as our text? One reason is in the book of revelation we have an answer for those who knock at our door dismissing the idea that Jesus is truly God and truly man. Follow along with me if you will. And you may use the Bible in the pew if you do not have your own with you. I would suggest marking this in your Bible at home so you have it when someone knocks at your door. First, we want to establish that God is the Alpha and Omega. We do that by looking at Rev. 1:8 (p. 1377 in the pew Bible). “I am the Alpha and Omega, says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” So, we ask, who is the Alpha and Omega? The answer is, God is. Now turn to Rev. 21:5-7 (p. 1395) “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” Again, who is the Alpha and the Omega? He is the Beginning and the End, in other words, He is God. So, not only is God described as the Alpha and the Omega, He is also described as the Beginning and the End. Now, turn to Rev. 22:13 (p. 1396). John writes: I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” And again we ask, “who is saying this?” and the answer is that God is saying this. Now for the clincher if you will, turn to Rev. 1:17-18 (p. 1377-1378). And this is again from our text for this morning. John writes: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he place his right hand on me and said: Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Now we ask, once more, “who did we say was the Alpha and the Omega?” We said it was God. And then we make our case that Jesus is God by asking, “when did God die and come back to life?” And of course, we know the answer, when Jesus, who is God, died on the cross and rose again. Which is what we just celebrated.
A another reason I am excited about having the book of Revelation as our text is because we do not get to have it as a text too often, probably because it is so misunderstood by our society. As I said earlier, the book of Revelation is the second half of John’s Gospel. It is a book of Gospel, reminding us that our God is not dead but is alive. It is a book in which we see Jesus Christ seated at the right hand of the Father ruling over us, interceding for us, watching out for us and caring for us. The book of Revelation shows us Jesus in all His glory. He is in heaven living in all the glory that is His, that He gave up to be born as a human being. He is in heaven where He is using His divine attributes to their fullest.
The book of Revelation reminds us that Jesus is our Judge. that He will come again with power and great glory and might. He will come to judge the living and the dead. He will come to take us, the faithful, believing Christians to heaven to live with Him forever in eternity. He will do this because that is what He earned for us by His death on the cross for our sins and by His resurrection.
Finally, the book of Revelation reminds us of our need to be ready. We need to be ready at anytime and at all times, because we do not know the day or the hour when He will come again, only the Father knows. We need to be ready and we ready ourselves by being in the word, by reading our Bible, by remembering our Baptism, by confessing our sins and hearing His Word of absolution, by partaking of the Lord’s Supper. We ready ourselves and we show that we are ready by being about the Lord’s business, sharing His Word with others, being good stewards of our time, talents and treasures, using them to extend God’s kingdom, and especially to extend God’s kingdom here in this place. We show we are ready through our thoughts, our words and our actions, as they are directed heavenward. We need to be ready and we are ready as our Lord makes us ready through the means of grace.
Again, I cannot say it enough, our text for today, and as we will be in the book of Revelation for the next few Sundays, John reminds us that Jesus’ death and resurrection was not for nothing. His death earned life for us. His resurrection reminds us that we too will rise again. Jesus has accomplished all things for us and to that we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.